As an Irish Republican I believe in the historic right of the people of Ireland, as a whole or individually, to resist (where no other means exist) the British Colonial Occupation of our island-nation or any part of that nation through force of arms. However it is my firm belief that with such a right comes inescapable moral responsibilities and obligations. These beliefs are best summed up in the words of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic issued by the Provisional Government on the 24th of April 1916:
“We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty…
…and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.”
Unfortunately that strict admonition was not always adhered to by those who claimed to serve the cause of Irish freedom in the years following the 1916 Revolution. In the last decade of the Northern War, as I came into adulthood, there were times when I was deeply ashamed to share the title of Republican with some of those who chose to engage in armed resistance to the oppressive remnant of the British Occupation in the north-east of our country but whose actions or beliefs were personally abhorrent to me (and to many others). Over the thirty years of the conflict many Irish Republicans have had their own moments of shame and each have their own individual tales of despair. While some think of the headline-grabbing events that still spark bitter debate my thoughts go instead to events of a smaller scale, which were nonetheless still dreadful to me and even more so to those directly affected by them. The name of Patsy Gillespie looms heavy in my mind.
The Irish writer and blogger Mick Fealty has a very important post over on the news and current affairs site Slugger O’Toole that should serve as a reminder of the grim and terrible realities of a historic war that was at times fought without restraint or morality. It should also remind those who appropriate to themselves the mantle of revolutionary Irish Republicanism that the excuse of “this is war” is no excuse at all. The end never justifies the means. They merely serve to corrupt and tarnish it. Where arguably other means now exist to resist and undermine the fading vestige of the British Colony on the island of Ireland those who chose the military path must give a greater justification for their actions than mere continuity or necessity. And if they remain determined to pursue resistance and liberation through armed force while rejecting the words and even more so the spirit of the 1916 Proclamation then they are simply a mirror-image of that they claim to oppose. Or worse.